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Board delays action on 'no-fail' test idea


Local school superintendents who came up with the idea of keeping test scores secret to avoid unfair criticism have come up with another new concept: a test you can't fail.

In a letter to the state Board of Education, Washington County schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen has proposed publishing students' scores on tough new state tests that will be administered in May to third-, fifth- and eighth-graders -- but not establishing a passing grade. Yesterday, the state board put off responding to that suggestion. Instead, board members agreed to wait until the test is given to see whether it is a success.

Local superintendents have said that the new Criterion-Referenced Tests are so untested, it's not fair to use them to publicly measure school districts' performance this first year.

The tests measure students' knowledge of established material rather than comparing their performance -- as was done in previous tests -- to a "norm" established years ago in California.

In a partial concession to their complaints, the board decided yesterday that it would not include the test results in the annual state performance report popularly known as Maryland's school "report card."

The decision was a reversal of an earlier move by the board to delay printing the report from November to February so as to include the results from the new tests.

Last month, representatives of the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland asked board members to keep the test results secret for the first year to avoid unfair criticism from the public and the media.

The board told them that withholding the test scores would be illegal. The superintendents suggested a compromise: keeping the scores out of the Maryland School Performance Program Report, which compares students' performance across the state using a variety of data.

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